I Heart Britain

23 Strange & Quirky British Festivals

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Maybe it's all the rainy days, or maybe it's the fact that the UK is a nation of islanders, but they really do know how to make life interesting. The United Kingdom is home to some of the world's quirkiest festivals, and each year you'll find hundreds, even thousands of excited Brits chasing cheese down hills, toe wrestling, and running around with sacks of wool – among other things.

Below, we've gathered up 23 of the strangest British festivals. Should you find yourself near one on a future trip, we highly recommend working it into your itinerary. It doesn't even matter which one – they're all strange and delightful in their own way, and there's not a one we wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend.

Table of Contents

JORVIK Viking Festival

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Where : York, North Yorkshire, England

When : Annually in February

This annual festival of York's Viking heritage features a variety of living history encampments, markets, talks, combat performances, and tours around the city. While York's historic centre always has a pretty strong Viking vibe, this February celebration takes it from its usual level of, say, 8…and pushes it up to at least a 12 out of 10. If you've ever wanted to feel like you're inside a brutal historic drama, put this festival on your travel bucket list.

Clovelly Seaweed Festival

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Where : Clovelly, Devon, England

When : Late May

If you've watched many British travel shows, you've almost definitely seen the incredible seaside village of Clovelly. This north Devon coastal village features a steep pedestrianised cobblestone street, donkeys and sleds to takes things up and down, and a fee for tourist entry. It remains privately-owned to this day, and you can't buy a home there unless you actually intend to live in it.

Though Clovelly gets a steady stream of tourists, that spikes in late May when they hold the annual seaweed festival. The festival not only celebrates seaweed as a nutritious food, but also a versatile product that can be used in arts and crafts. Even if you're not a fan of eating seaweed, it's worth a day out for the scenery, sea air, and all the crafts, music, and workshops on offer. The festival is put on in aid of the North Devon Hospice, so you're also helping a good cause.

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

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Where : Marshwood, Dorset, England

When : The Saturday before summer solstice in June

If you eat stinging nettles without boiling away the mildly poisonous hairs that cover the plant, your tongue will swell up and blacken. Parts of your body that come into contact with the hairs can develop an itchy rash.  So of course, the Brits decided to make a festival where you try to strip and eat as many stinging nettle leaves as possible.

At the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships, the 2018 male champion Phil Thorne (perfect name, btw) consumed 104 feet of stinging nettles, while the female champions Mel Long and Rachel Woods each ate around 61 feet of the painful plants.

The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival

Where : Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire, England

When : The Tuesday following Plough Monday (the first Monday after the twelfth night of January)

This three-day Cambridgeshire harvest festival includes Mummers plays, street performances, costumed Morris dancers, and people wearing giant piles of hay – along with a giant “bear burning”.

Many unfamiliar with British festivals will be startled to see that a good number of the revelers use blackface makeup as part of their costumes. Though often considered highly racist in modern industrialized cultures, the tradition is said to originate with impoverished 16th-century farm workers who used black paint to disguise themselves when they had to go out begging during harsh winters (though some scholars have offered less innocent explanations). If you're curious, you can read more in this Independent article about the tradition.

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

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Where : Padstow, Cornwall, England

When : May Day

Nearly 200 years ago, C.S. Gilbert (not to be confused with W.S. Gilbert of the famed duo, Gilbert and Sullivan) wrote about an annual May 1st jubilee in Padstow, known as the Hobby Horse. Though the tradition has evolved a bit, it continues on today, starting at midnight each April 30th. They start by singing to the landlord of the Golden Lion Inn, then carry on around the town until the wee hours of the morning.

Throughout the next day, people display flowers and tree branches around the town, and festivities continue all through the day until ending around the maypole at midnight. The main identifying feature of the festival is the obby oss, of which there are two. It's a bit difficult to explain these unusual horse costumes, but you can see one of them in the photo above. They dance and parade around the town, and people take turns teasing the oss.

World Bog Snorkeling Championships

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Where : Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales

When : Each August bank holiday since 1985

When most people think about places to snorkel, they imagine tropical beaches and brightly-coloured fish. In the UK, however, there's a set of people who go straight for the nearest peat bog.

Each year, Wales is home to the World Bog Snorkeling Championship, and event that sees its participants don snorkels and flippers to complete two consecutive lengths of a trench cut through a peat bog. Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales is recognized as the origin point for bog snorkeling, dreamt up during a pub conversation back in 1976. Since then, it's spread to countries like Australia, Ireland, and Sweden – enough places that I suppose it makes sense to have a “World Championship”.

Stonehaven Fireballs

Where : Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

When : Hogmanay (New Year's Eve)

All over Scotland, New Year's Eve is celebrated in a different and dramatic fashion. For starters, it's not “New Year's Eve” in Scotland. It's Hogmanay. Fire is a chief component of many celebrations, but Stonehaven kicks it up a notch.

At midnight in the coastal town of Stonehaven, dozens of Scots move through the High Street, whirling balls of fire as they go. Bagpipes, drums, shouting, and sparks flying about – what could be a better way to ring in the new year?

The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race

Where : Brawby, North Yorkshire, England

When : Varies, but it's mostly annual and in the summer (it appears there was no race this year)

The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race is another one of those strange festivals dreamt up in a pub. Brawby artist Simon Thackray thought it might be fun to sail down a river in a giant Yorkshire pudding, so he chatted with a local baker and make it happen.

The boats used in this race are real Yorkshire puddings of flour, water, and eggs, but they're coated in yacht varnish to make them seaworthy.

The World Gravy Wrestling Championships

Where : Rossendale, Lancashire, England at The Rose ‘N' Bowl

When : Annually in August

For more than a decade now, this event has been held at the Rose ‘N' Bowl in Rossendale to benefit the East Lancashire Hospice (along with a number of competitor-selected charities). Contestants wrestle in a pool full of Lancashire gravy for two minutes, with points awarded for fancy dress, entertainment factor, and overall wrestling ability. Alongside the main event, you'll also find a variety of food stalls, performances, vendors, and kid activities.

Events occur throughout the day, and the local fire brigade helps to hose down wrestlers in between rounds.

The Egg Throwing World Championships

When : On Swaton Vintage Day, typically late June

The World Egg Throwing Championship is hosted annually during Swaton Vintage Day, a festival originally intended to showcase a variety of vintage vehicles. Though its vintage country show still occurs, the egg throwing activities have gained some prominence, overshadowing the old cars, tractors, and motorbikes just a bit.

In addition to the vintage vehicles and thrown eggs, the Swaton Vintage Day events also feature a novelty dog show (with categories like waggiest tail and “dog most like owner”), aviation demonstrations, a tea tent, a variety of vendors, and plenty of activities for kids and families.

Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling

Where : Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, Gloucester, England

When : Annually, on the spring bank holiday

It's a simple event, really. A 7-9 pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is sent rolling down a hill, then people chase after it. The first person to reach the bottom wins the cheese. In recent years, the cheese has actually been replaced by a styrofoam replica, as the real cheese would build up a dangerous amount of momentum at 70 mph, occasionally threatening the safety of spectators.

What started out as a quirky little event for the village of Brockworth has now transformed into an international media circus. It's even been mentioned in shows like ER and the Gilmore Girls.

International Festival of Wormcharming

Where : Blackawton, Devon, England

When : Annually in early May

In 1983, Dave Kelland and a mate were having a drink in The Normandy Arms pub on miserable, wet day. On the way home, Dave relieved himself on the ground and saw worms surface. Somehow, these things led him to believe it would be a good idea to hold an event to see who can charm the most worms out of the ground. Though it started as more of an adult event in 1984, it has  since become fun for the whole family.

How does it work? Everyone gets a 1 metre x 1 yard plot, and you get 5 minutes for the “worming up” phase, where you're allowed to do whatever you feel will get worms to come out (short of digging, forking, or pouring hazardous liquids onto the ground). From there, each team gets 15 minutes to get as many worms as possible before judging and returning them safely to the ground.

In addition to the main event, they also have a fancy dress competition, novelty dog competition, and loads of food and entertainment. You can view the official event website HERE .

Summer/Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

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Where : Stonehenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, England

When : Solstice dates

It's believed our ancestors built Stonehenge to align with the movements of the sun, guiding their year and framing important celestial events – the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice and the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice.

Today, thousands of make the trek to Stonehenge on these dates. For some, it's a religious experience. For others, it's a chance to share an experience with people long dead. Some just enjoy the energy of the crowd or the chance to be out in nature. Regardless, a solstice at Stonehenge is an incredible event – and the only time people are allowed to stay out all night among the stones.

World Toe Wrestling Championship

When : Annually, early summer

At the World Toe Wrestling Championships, competitors sit with their bare feet in a square ring, then lock big toes and attempt to wrestle the other person's foot to the sideboard of the designated area. It's a strange event, and it's perhaps the only sport where nurses inspector the toes of competitors for fungus and hidden weapons. It's part skill, part strength, and part psychological warfare.

Oh, and you need to be willing to strain your back and break a few toes while you're at it. If you're still interested after hearing all that, you can learn more HERE .

Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival

When : Annually in mid-August

Once each year, scarecrows take over the small village of Kettlewell in North Yorkshire (not far from the market town of Skipton). There are themed trails with clues, activities for kids and families, and more food than you could ever possibly hope to eat – but mostly, there are scarecrows. Lots and lots of scarecrows.

Jack-in-the-Green Celebration

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Where : Hastings, East Sussex, England

If you're a Jethro Tull fan, you've probably heard of Jack-in-the-Green. You may not know where the phrase comes from, though. Jack-in-the-Green started back in the 18th century as a part of May Day celebrations, ushering in the summer season. Originally, it was quite a bawdy affair, with a Lord and Lady of the May carrying out practical jokes, and everyone generally having a wild time. Eventually, a pretty May Queen replaced the Lord and Lady, and the whole thing became much more subdued.

In the 1970s and 80s, though, the tradition was brought back to life. Most notably, 1983 brought the Jack-in-the-Green Celebration to Hastings. Jack marches through the city, covered in leaves and twigs and generally looking like some kind of humanoid shrub. In some places, he's accompanied by attendants representing Robin Hood and Maid Marion. In Hastings, he's accompanied by Bogeys (Bogeymen) disguised in green rags, vegetation, and green-face.

At the end of the procession, Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer.

Hunting of the Earl of Rone

When : Annually during the May bank holiday weekend

Each year, the residents of Combe Martin spent a weekend “hunting” the Earl of Rone, who isn't found until Monday. On Monday, the Earl is paraded around on a donkey, then shot, then revived, then shot again and revived, and so on – until sunset, when he's chucked into the sea as the sun sets.

If you think that sounds completely mental, you're not alone – and that's before you add in the hobby horse and drums. It's all in good fun, though, and any surplus funds donated during the event go to good causes in the area.

Nutters' Dance

When : Annually on Easter

Perhaps the most misunderstood and controversial entry on this list is the Britannia Coco-Nutters dance troupe. These Lancastrian clog dancers go out each Easter and dance 7 miles across the town of Bacup. The dancers don blackface, often attributed to the Cornish miners who came to the area – though some sources say it was a disguise to ward off evil spirits. Some consider them to be quite inappropriate in this day and age, but others are glad to see they're carrying on the tradition in spite of those who misinterpret their intentions.

Tichborne Dole

When : Annually on March 25th

Many years ago in the village of Tichborne, sometime around 1150, a wealthy old woman on her deathbed stipulated that a donation of farm produce should be shared with the poor each year. That lady was Mabella Tichborne. Supposedly, her husband didn't approve and said the dole would only consist of land she could encircle on her own while carrying a burning torch. Though in poor health, she crawled around a 23-acre field which is now known as “the crawls”.

Old Lady Tichborne is said to have put a curse on the family and the dole, stating that if the dole ever stopped, the family would have seven sons, and then the next generation would have seven daughters – leading to the end of the family name and title. The dole continued from the 12th century up until 1796, when local officials ordered the dole to stop. It was attracting all manner of undesirables for freebies, and they didn't like it.

Sure enough, bad things started to happen. Part of the house crumbled. Then came seven sons, followed by a generation of seven daughters. Though the dole was reinstated, bad things continued to happen. Eventually, the last male hair to the title died off in the 1960s.

The dole continues today, but now they hand out flour instead of bread.

Up Helly Aa

When : The last Tuesday of January

Up Helly AA is a fire festival held annually in Shetland, and though it's often associated with Lerwick, it actually occurs in a number of locations throughout the Shetlands. The current festival grew out of an old tradition of young men dragging flaming tarred barrels around, getting drunk and causing mischief – and the current celebration is actually not too far from it.

If you can brave the long trip and cold, windy weather, it's not to be missed.

Twelfth Night

When : Approximately January 6th, annually

This festival occurs on the Twelfth Night, though the exact day can vary based on day of the week. A Holly Man (winter version of the Green Man) bedecked in greenery comes in over the Millennium Bridge, accompanied by mummers and wassailers. They perform a traditional play featuring St. George, and then cake is handed out. The individuals who find the concealed King bean and Queen pea in their cakes are crowned King and Queen for the day, and then everyone heads for the George Inn for more revelry.

The event is free, and it occurs no matter what the weather is like.

Whitby Goth Weekend

When : Twice yearly in April and October/November

Whitby Goth Weekend is a festival of music and weirdness that converges on the town of Whitby twice annually. Goths and steampunks and other unconventional types flood the town that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. There's music, food, and plenty of unusual shopping – not to mention stunning seaside scenery and a sense of camaraderie among oddballs.

Tetbury Woolsack Races

When : Annually, in late May

In the small Cotswold town of Tetbury, there's an annual race to carry a 60-pound wool sack while racing up a relatively steep hill (35-pounds for women). The annual tradition is rooted in the town's history as an important wool market between Oxford and Bristol, and while the wool trade is no longer what it once was, they still honour their past with this quirky race.

Each year, people gather in Tetbury to drink, run with wool sacks, and generally have a good time. There's often a celebrity guest, and there are loads of stalls and activities for spectators. Like many, if not most of these types of events, the proceeds benefit nearby charities.

Which Strange British Festival Would You Most Like to Attend?

Let us know in the comments – and if we've missed any, feel free to add them!

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Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and choose the right answer: True/False

1. Many of these festivals are actually races or competitions. True /False

2. The Burning of the Clavie brings good luck for the new year. True /False

3. On Shrove Tuesday in Scarborough people dance with ropes. True /False

4. Cheese rolling involves running away from a big, round cheese. True/ False

5. Snail racing started in the UK. True /False

6. The competition to pull the ugliest face is an old tradition. True /False

7. The Burning of the Clocks festival marks the summer solstice. True /False

8. The Burning of the Clocks festival ends with people throwing water. True /False

Listen to the conversation about plans for the weekend and circle the best option to complete these sentences.

1. A dirt board is a board with wheels that you stand on / a board with no wheels that you stand on / a board that you sit on .

2. To go cannoning you need ropes and a helmet / a guide and special equipment / ropes and special equipment .

3. Zip-wiring is scary and difficult / easy and exciting / scary but exciting .

4. Paris looks so beautiful at night / on television / in the photos .

5. The impressionist paintings are in the Louvre / the Musée D’Orsay / the Rodin Museum .

6. The famous Rodin statue is called The Worker / The Thinker / The Philosopher .

7. The girl is going to Paris for the weekend / four days / five days .

8. She’s going with her friend / her boyfriend / her family .

T ASK 1 (1 text). Match the explanation (1 – 5) and the word (A – F). Mind that one word from the list A – F is odd.

1 It is a pronounceable word formed from the first letter or first few letters of each word in a phrase or title. Sometimes the newly-combined letters create a new word that takes the place in everyday language. These are very widely used: RADAR, LASER, SCUBA, WASP.

2 The activity of getting a large group of people to contribute to a project or task, especially by using a website where people can make contributions; for example, online proofreading services.

3 Can you imagine that this word was not coined in the 2000s? Everybody talks about them, everybody creates them nowadays. However, it was a faraway 1976 when Richard Dawkins invented it.

4 Who on earth doesn’t know this word now? However, not every person is aware of its origin. This word was first presented in Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver Travels where they were primitive cruel creatures with materialistic attitudes.

5 In Cabbages and Kings , a collection of short stories by O. Henry, the author introduced the term like this” Later, politicians in the U.S. exploited this term in referring to unstable countries that depend upon exported products.

A. Crowdsourcing

D. Banana Republic

T ASK 2 Complete the text with A – G. There is one item that you do not need to use.

I have been working as a trained chef for several years and I am also a restaurant and food critic. I’m currently taking part in a reality TV series 1. ______________

Some of the situations I have dealt within the series are quite incredible. I’ll just mention a few to show some of the problems 2. ____________________________

In many cases, it is the food that is not up to standard. One Italian restaurant that I visited recently served me nothing but frozen or re-cooked food. I had to spend several days re-training the chef 3. ______________________________________

The last restaurant I visited was in a stunning position by the sea, and there wasn’t a dish of fresh fish on the menu! Next week, I’m taking the owners out fishing to show them what they have been missing! Some chefs I have met have simply lost their passion for food, but sometimes they will give it one more try, because of the support and encouragement 4. __________________________________________

My worst eating experience was in a burger restaurant. The burgers were all either undercooked or overcooked and burnt on the outside. What a disaster! I find it unbelievable 5. _____________________________________________________

Other problems I have encountered usually concern the staff or the management, particularly if it’s a family –run business. Working with family can be stressful, but we usually manage to work out a solution together, mainly 6. ________________

At least I feel really happy when the restaurants I visit improve!

A. because there’s too much to lose if we don’t!

B. so he could feel confident about using fresh food again.

C. that running a restaurant may involve.

D. that these places have survived for so long.

E. how a restaurant shouldn’t be run.

Use of English

Task 1. Use of English

Music – a universal language

Music is universal – it is (0) ____ by all cultures. Some scientists believe that music came before speech and (1) ____ as a development of mating calls. In fact, there is (2) _____ theory that the (3) _____ languages were chanted or sung rather than spoken. Indeed, in some cultures, music is a form of (4) ______ history. The Aboriginal Australians, for example, use music as a means to (5) ______ on stories of the land and spirits to the next (6) _______ .

New evidence suggests that music does not just (7) ______ the feel-good factor but it is also good for the brain. A study of intellectually (8) ______ children showed that they could recall more (9) _____ after it was given to them in a song than after it was read to them as a story.

Researches also report that people (10) _____ better on a standard intelligence (11) _____ after listening to Mozart. The so called ‘Mozart effect’, has also been (12) _____ by finding that rats (13) ______ up on Mozart run faster through a complex network of paths or passages, (14) _____ as a maze. Overall, it seems that in most instances people who suffer from any form of mental (15) ____ benefit from listening to music.

TASK 2 Use of English

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The Unusual British News of 2022

Dec 30, 2022, weird world.

A lot has happened in 2022.

In this episode, we look at some of the most unusual British news stories of the year, including footballer's wives, the crime of treason, and the shifting demographics of the United Kingdom.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and this is going to be the last episode of 2022, so today we are going to be talking about some unusual news stories from the year, stories that, even if you live in the UK or you follow British news closely, you might not have been aware of.

[00:00:38] On our little journey we’ll come across footballer’s wives, misbehaving politicians, the changing demographics of the country, a mad man with a crossbow and the crime of high treason .

[00:00:50] OK then, The Unusual British News of 2022.

[00:00:57] It might sound like an understatement to say that a lot has happened in the UK since the first of January of 2022.

[00:01:06] The country, as of the time of recording, has had three different prime ministers, experienced the hottest day on record , and the British pound dipped to an all-time low against the dollar.

[00:01:19] But perhaps the biggest national change is one you will no doubt be aware of. 

[00:01:25] The country lost a queen in Elizabeth II, and got a new king, Charles the III.

[00:01:31] So, our first category of unusual news is going to be related to this change in the monarchy .

[00:01:38] But before you complain and say, hey, you said this would be “unusual”, and I already knew about this queen that you people seem to like so much, don’t worry, here you’ll learn what I hope will be some unusual pieces of news about the queen this year.

[00:01:53] So, firstly, you probably already knew that on February the 6th the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee , her 70th anniversary as queen of the country.

[00:02:04] You might not have known that on June the 12th of this year she became the second-longest serving monarch in world history, overtaking the king of Thailand.

[00:02:16] She didn’t quite manage to claim first position, however. 

[00:02:20] This is still held by King Louis XIV of France, although he did get a significant headstart on Queen Elizabeth II, because he became king when he was a mere 4 years old.

[00:02:32] And if you are wondering whether Charles, her son, will manage to beat his mother, well let me just tell you that he would have to live until his 144th birthday to manage that.

[00:02:45] But while his mother, Queen Elizabeth, did manage to live to a ripe old 96 years old, it might surprise you to find out that on Christmas Day last year, in fact, an armed intruder was arrested after attempting to break in to Windsor Castle, where the queen was staying, where he was planning to assassinate her with a crossbow , a powerful bow and arrow.

[00:03:10] Sure, this was technically news from 2021, but the unusual news from 2022 about this case is that in August of 2022, the man who attempted to kill the queen became the last person to be charged with treason , with the crime of attempting to kill the head of state.

[00:03:31] Interestingly enough, there is an act of parliament, called the 1842 Treason Act, that constitutionally allows for someone to be charged for the crime of attempting to harm the queen.

[00:03:43] Fortunately, she passed away peacefully in her bed on September the 8th, she wasn’t shot by a madman with a bow and arrow, but it is certainly interesting and refreshing that English law has an Act ready to punish anyone who attempts such a crime.

[00:04:00] Now, our second “unusual” British news story of 2022 also relates to the law, and this is a trial that was dubbed by the British press as the “Wagatha Christie” trial .

[00:04:14] In practical terms, it was a trial between two women, Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney.

[00:04:22] You might not have heard of these two women before, but you may have heard of their husbands: Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney. 

[00:04:30] If you haven’t heard of them, they are both famous English football players.

[00:04:35] So, why were these two women fighting each other in court?

[00:04:40] Well, the story went something like this.

[00:04:43] There were articles coming out in the British press about the private life of Coleen Rooney, stories that she wanted to remain private and not get leaked to the press. 

[00:04:54] She thought that one of her Instagram followers was passing information about her private life to the tabloid newspapers. 

[00:05:03] She suspected that it was Rebekah Vardy, the wife of her husband’s England teammate.

[00:05:10] So, what did she do?

[00:05:12] Well, she planted “fake” stories to try to catch Rebekah Vardy out. 

[00:05:18] There is a setting on Instagram where you can choose to only show your Instagram Stories to certain people, so Coleen Rooney selected to only show certain stories to Rebekah Vardy.

[00:05:31] Then if these stories appeared in the British tabloids , ta-dah, she would know that it was Vardy who was responsible for passing them on to the journalists.

[00:05:42] Lo and behold , the stories did appear in the press.

[00:05:48] In 2021, Rooney shocked her followers when she revealed this plot on Twitter, and accused Rebekah Vardy of having sold these stories.

[00:05:59] Naturally, Vardy denied it, she said it wasn’t her.

[00:06:04] She didn’t need the money, and why would she do something like that to her friend?

[00:06:09] What’s more, she took Rooney to court for something called “ libel ”, which is the crime of accusing someone in public and harming their reputation.

[00:06:18] But Coleen Rooney stood firm , and the pair met in court.

[00:06:24] It was an extensive trial , with the British press calling Coleen “Wagatha Christie”. 

[00:06:31] A “wag”, by the way, is a nickname for the wives and girlfriends of footballers, it comes from the acronym W-A-G, WAG, wives and girlfriend. 

[00:06:42] And Agatha Christie was a famous British crime writer, so Rooney acquired this nickname because of her combined status as “wag” and excellent detective.

[00:06:53] On the 29th of July of 2022, the court announced its judgement. 

[00:06:59] The jury concluded that there was enough evidence to suggest that Vardy had actually been guilty of leaking the stories, and the case was thrown out.

[00:07:10] The trial itself was almost like a comic soap opera , or a bad Agatha Christie novel, with Vardy’s agent claiming to have dropped her phone into the North Sea by accident, and Vardy’s supposed “IT expert” to have forgotten the password to important encrypted messaging data.

[00:07:30] It turned out that Rebekah Vardy had lost more than her dignity or a mobile phone. 

[00:07:37] The judge ordered her to pay Coleen Rooney’s legal costs as well as her own, with the entire debacle estimated to have cost her £3 million pounds, so that’s almost three and a half million Euros.

[00:07:52] Now, our third category of “unusual news”, after the royals and the footballers’ wives, is relating to a category of people you might not expect to be misbehaving . Or perhaps you would completely expect it of them.

[00:08:05] And this is politicians.

[00:08:08] 2022 was a year of some pretty bad behaviour by British politicians.

[00:08:14] First, as you may remember, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was mired in controversy for the first half of the year for having held a series of parties at 10 Downing Street, at the home of the Prime Minister.

[00:08:28] In normal times, of course, there would be nothing wrong with this, especially for a prime minister who has made no secret of the fact that he enjoys having a good time.

[00:08:39] But these parties had taken place during strict COVID lockdowns, so while the Prime Minister was on TV telling people that they shouldn’t leave their houses or socialise with anyone, he was proved to be having extensive gatherings that went completely against the rules that he himself had set out .

[00:08:58] In classic Boris Johnson style, he tried to get out of these accusations, saying that he knew nothing about them and that he was sure that all of the rules had been followed, but as the months went on, more and more details emerged , including that Boris Johson knew exactly what had happened and had been at many of these parties.

[00:09:20] So, that’s certainly bad behaviour, and was one of the many reasons that Johnson was forced to resign in July of 2022.

[00:09:29] Now, the second “political misbehaviour ” is a very unusual one indeed, and I’ll leave you to decide for yourself how it compares to the behaviour of Boris Johnson and the parties, or partygate as it was dubbed by the press.

[00:09:44] In April of 2022, a group of female Conservative members of parliament, or MPs, met with a senior politician to discuss the issue of sexism in Westminster, in British politics.

[00:09:58] One of the women complained that she had been sitting next to a male MP who had been watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons, in the Houses of Parliament.

[00:10:10] If you have seen pictures or videos of the House of Commons, yes I’m talking about those long benches with green cushions , the centre of the British parliament. 

[00:10:21] She didn’t name the man, but he was later revealed to be an MP called Neil Parish.

[00:10:28] And what did Mr Parish say?

[00:10:31] Did he deny it? Did he say it couldn’t possibly have been him, or that his colleague must have been mistaken in what she saw?

[00:10:39] He didn’t, actually, but his excuse wasn’t bought by everyone.

[00:10:44] He said that he was searching for tractors , and had stumbled across a pornography website, and he had continued to watch.

[00:10:54] He also admitted that he had watched porn in the House of Commons a second time, and that time he had skipped the tractors and went straight for the porn.

[00:11:05] Although his boss, Boris Johnson, had survived multiple scandals , some perhaps even more saucy than this, it was too much for Parish, and he was forced to resign his position as member of parliament.

[00:11:19] He does still claim that he was initially looking for tractors , and I’ll leave you to decide whether you believe him on that count .

[00:11:28] Our third political misbehaviour story is a slightly darker one, but it is important, and goes to show how much this behaviour was tolerated in Westminster, so much so that it has been dubbed “Pestminster” by the press.

[00:11:43] In July of 2022, another Conservative politician, a man named Chris Pincher, was forced to resign after it emerged that there were a whole range of accusations of sexual assault against him dating back 10 years, going back a decade.

[00:12:01] The culmination of all of this had been the events of one evening, on the 30th of June, when Pincher had gone to a private club in an exclusive area of London, drunk too much and sexually assaulted two men.

[00:12:16] Nasty stuff indeed, but it would have far-reaching consequences.

[00:12:21] It turned out that Boris Johnson, the then Prime Minister, knew all about Pincher’s reputation, even joking that he was “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”.

[00:12:32] If you are a pincher, by the way, it means you grab or take something from someone that you shouldn’t, or you touch them inappropriately, without their permission.

[00:12:42] Anyway, Boris Johnson knew all about Pincher’s reputation, yet he still appointed him to a senior position in government.

[00:12:51] And this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Johnson, the nail in the coffin in his tenure as Prime Minister, and he was forced to resign a few days later.

[00:13:02] Now, you might be surprised to hear that we aren’t going to talk about Liz Truss at all in this episode.

[00:13:08] And that’s for two reasons. 

[00:13:10] Firstly, it’s not completely unusual, and although there are plenty of unusual and unexpected bits of her chaotic 44 days in charge of the country, you probably know some of it already.

[00:13:22] And the second reason is that there is just so much to unpack , so we can’t do it justice in a small five minute section here. 

[00:13:32] The good news is that we did just do an entire episode on the mad and tragic 44 days of Liz Truss, so if you haven’t listened to that one already, then that one's for you, it’s episode number 327.

[00:13:45] Now, the final piece of unusual news is something that lots of people aren’t aware of outside the UK, and many people aren’t aware of even inside the UK.

[00:13:56] And this is related to the shifting demographics of the country, specifically, the increasing multiculturalism of the UK.

[00:14:06] This isn’t “news”, in so much as it's a gradual change, but there are some important pieces of news to mention that highlight the increasing diversity of the country.

[00:14:18] The first piece of “unusual news” is related to the publication of the results of the national Census, a big survey that is done of the UK population every 10 years, which tries to answer questions like “how many people live in the country?” and “who are they?”.

[00:14:37] The results started to be published this year, and had, for some, surprising results, especially with the fact that the UK has been painted by many outside the country as anti-foreigner and anti-immigrant.

[00:14:52] Of course, the Brexit vote gave people a pretty good reason to think that this was the case, but the results of the Census show that the country is different to what a lot of people think, and it is indeed much more multicultural than many large European countries.

[00:15:09] So, it might surprise you to find out that one in every six people in England and Wales was born outside the UK, a 33% increase from 2011.

[00:15:23] If you’re interested, the top five countries were, in this order, India, Poland, Pakistan, Romania and Ireland.

[00:15:33] This non-UK born population is highly concentrated in the cities, which tend to be more multicultural places. 

[00:15:41] One area of London, for example, Brent, has 56% of its residents who were born outside the UK.

[00:15:50] Put simply, the UK is a lot more multicultural and multinational than many people think it is.

[00:15:57] And this is particularly important when one remembers that in the summer of 2022, the Prime Minister of the country was chosen only by members of the Conservative Party, fewer than a hundred thousand people voted for Liz Truss, and these voters were overwhelmingly, 97%, white, over half of them were over 60, and they lived primarily in the south of England.

[00:16:22] Essentially, the Prime Minister was voted in by a tiny proportion of the country’s population, and a proportion of the population that was utterly unrepresentative of the real electorate .

[00:16:36] Now, as you’ll remember, the Prime Minister that was chosen by the members of the Conservative Party, Liz Truss, didn’t do a very good job at all.

[00:16:45] Nevertheless, her tenure as Prime Minister did break some records, and not only for the shortest time in office.

[00:16:53] On September the 6th of this year, when Liz Truss announced her cabinet , a record was broken.

[00:17:00] It was the first time in British history that the “Great Offices of State” didn’t contain a white man.

[00:17:07] The “Great Offices of State” are the most important political jobs in the country: so that's the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is basically the Minister of Finance, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary.

[00:17:21] Now, these politicians might have been trailblazers in terms of who they were, but they were still useless politicians and they did huge damage to the country.

[00:17:32] As you may well know, after they were booted out , the country then broke a new record when it welcomed the first non-white Prime Minister in the form of Rishi Sunak, who has Indian heritage.

[00:17:45] And another fun-fact about Rishi Sunak is that, at 42 years old, he was the youngest Prime Minister in 200 years.

[00:17:54] Although Sunak might be representative of the changing demographics of the country, he has been criticised for being pretty unrepresentative in almost every other way.

[00:18:06] Specifically, his bank balance certainly is not representative of the average person in the country.

[00:18:13] When his wife’s fortune is taken into account, Sunak holds the record for being the richest ever British Prime Minister, with a combined fortune of almost a billion Euros.

[00:18:26] So, there you have it, the unusual news of 2022. 

[00:18:31] This year the UK has broken records for the longest monarch , the world’s longest-serving female monarch , the richest Prime Minister, the youngest Prime Minister, the shortest-serving Prime Minister, it’s broken multicultural records, it has seen some extremely bad behaviour from politicians, and last but not least , some exceptional detective work from footballer’s wives.

[00:18:56] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Unusual British News of 2022.

[00:19:01] I hope it's been an interesting one, and whether it’s footballers’ wives, naughty politicians or the changing make-up of the country, that you've learnt something new about the UK.

[00:19:11] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode. 

[00:19:14] Are there any unusual stories from the UK that you remember from this year?

[00:19:18] Do you remember how the news of the queen’s death was covered in your country?

[00:19:22] What is the most unusual news from your country this year?

[00:19:26] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:19:29] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:37] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:42] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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Unusual British festivals

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  • B1 listening

Celebrations

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It was Nicky's idea, but we all think it's going to be brilliant. As soon as the last exams have finished, we're going to decorate the main hall at school with paper streamers and Chinese lanterns and things. Steve had this idea of projecting photos of everyone onto a wall, like a slide show. And we've got Jo's brother, who's a professional DJ, coming along. Then there are three different bands lined up to play. Ours is the best, because we've been together longest and we've got a great bass player, ( coughs ) although I say so myself, so we're on last. It's going to be cool.

Every year there's a carnival in August in London. You've probably heard of it, the Notting Hill Carnival? So this year, me and my friends are going again. We went last year and we had such a fantastic time. It's all Afro-Caribbean, with people in amazing costumes and these brilliant steel bands. We don't go in costume, but we do dance a lot. It does get quite crowded, so you have to make sure you stick together. And you have to watch out for pick-pockets when there are so many people in the same place. But it's really good fun; it's like London becomes a different country. Even the police dance sometimes.

We're going to hire a boat for the day and take it up the river. It's my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary, so the whole family is getting together. I'm really looking forward to seeing my cousins again. I haven't seen them for ages. We've got this huge picnic planned, with loads of different types of sandwiches and salads and an enormous cake. My dad has borrowed an ancient gramophone player, you know, what they had before CD players, and some old records. So as we go up the river we're going to listen to music from the time my grandparents got married – the swinging sixties!

Two of my best friends have their birthday in the same week, so some of us have decided to have a surprise party for both of them. One of my friends, Sandra, has a big house, and her parents say we can use it. They're going away, luckily. It's at the end of October, so we're going to decorate the house with Halloween things, you know, spiders' webs and spooky things. We're going to make up an excuse to get the birthday girls to come round to the house – say we're going to help Sandra move some stuff, or something. Then, as soon as Sandra lets them in, we're going to turn the lights out and jump out at them! We just have to make sure nobody mentions anything on Facebook and gives away the surprise.

There's a Royal Wedding in June – one of our princes is getting married – so it's a public holiday. Lots of people are having parties in squares and parks and places, and the people in our street decided to have one too. Well, it's a good excuse to have a party, isn't it? We're all going to take out tables and chairs and put them together in the middle of the road. We're going to stop cars coming through, obviously. We're all going to bring different dishes and share them round. There are quite a lot of different nationalities living on our street – people from India, China and different African countries – so the food should be really interesting. It'll be good to get to know more of the neighbours too.

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Do you have any celebrations planned? What are you celebrating? What are you going to do?

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  1. Unusual british traditions

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  4. 15 of the Weirdest, Most Unusual British TV Shows You Can Stream

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VIDEO

  1. American Reacts to Weird Things ONLY British People Do (Part 1)

  2. American Reacts to Top 10 Weirdest British Traditions!

  3. American Reacts to Weird Facts About British Life (Part 2)

  4. ‘Godzilla Ramen’ Has a Crocodile Leg Sticking Out of the Bowl #shorts #godzillaramen #foodie

  5. Listening skills practice: Unusual British festivals

  6. The Craziest British Officer chose this SWORD?

COMMENTS

  1. Unusual British festivals

    The World Gurning Championship is a competition to pull the ugliest face. It sounds ridiculous but this is an ancient British tradition and the Crab Fair itself dates back to 1267. The man who won the title of best gurner the most in recent years had all his teeth taken out so he could make terrible faces more easily.

  2. Unusual British festivals.

    For teaching purposes.https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening/upper-intermediate-b2-listening/unusual-british-festivals

  3. PDF Unusual British festivals

    Transcript for Unusual British festivals. Hello. I'm going to talk about British festivals. I'm sure you've heard about the Notting Hill Carnival in London and the Edinburgh Festival, but today we're going to look at a lot more that you might not know about. Actually, a lot of these are not exactly festivals, but strange races or ...

  4. 23 Strange & Quirky British Festivals

    23 Strange & Quirky British Festivals. August 23, 2019 by I Heart Britain. Maybe it's all the rainy days, or maybe it's the fact that the UK is a nation of islanders, but they really do know how to make life interesting. The United Kingdom is home to some of the world's quirkiest festivals, and each year you'll find hundreds, even thousands of ...

  5. Unusual festivals is...

    October 28, 2021 ·. 🧀 Unusual festivals is the theme of this B2 listening activity. There are interactive exercises as well as downloadable materials. Karen 🤩. Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org.

  6. UNUSUAL BRITISH FESTIVALS

    You will listen to a presentation about unusual British festivals and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. Click on the image below. Remember, you can print the PDF exercises and check the transcript while listening to check pronunciation too =D

  7. Unusual British Festivals

    Unusual British Festivals - Exercises - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Listen to the presentation about Unusual British festivals. Do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. Follow a firework display, cook and eat as a special character, decorate your house or street and take part in ancient traditions.

  8. British festivals listening practice: Unusual traditions and ...

    unusual_british_festivals_-_exercises.pdf - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Scribd is the world's largest social reading and publishing site.

  9. Unusual british festivals interactive worksheet

    Unusual british festivals Unusual british festivals. Loading ad... MissPahola2 Member for 2 years 11 months Age: 18+ ... code: PE. Country: Peru. School subject: English as a Second Language (ESL) (1061958) Main content: Listening comprehension (2013242) LISTEN AND CHOOSE. Loading ad... Share / Print Worksheet. Google Classroom Microsoft Teams ...

  10. PDF Listening skills practice: Unusual British festivals

    B: Wait—I found it! Nonverbal Activity 2: We Have to Move Now! •Cut several strips of paper. •On each strip of paper, write down a mood or a disposition like guilty, happy, suspicious, paranoid, insulted, or insecure. •Fold the strips of paper and put them into a bowl. They will be prompts.

  11. Episode 431

    In this episode, we look at some of the most unusual British news stories of 2023. Podcasts. English Learning for Curious Minds. Pioneers Of The Continuum. About The Making Of A Dictator (New) Business English Blog ... The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as ...

  12. Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and choose

    C. that running a restaurant may involve. D. that these places have survived for so long. E. how a restaurant shouldn't be run. Use of English. Task 1. Use of English. Music - a universal language. Music is universal - it is (0) ____ by all cultures. Some scientists believe that music came before speech and (1) ____ as a development of mating calls.

  13. Episode 328

    The Queen. Life in the UK. A lot has happened in 2022. In this episode, we look at some of the most unusual British news stories of the year, including footballer's wives, the crime of treason, and the shifting demographics of the United Kingdom. % buffered.

  14. Unusual British festivals

    Play the whole audio without a break. Don't read the transcript. Now, listen to the audio and do the exercises on the following tabs. If you do not complete all the question, you can play the audio again. After that, read the dialog to make sure that you understand all word in the audio. IELTS - International English Language Testing System.

  15. B2 listening

    Listen to the speaker continue talking about a book called The Filter Bubble and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. ... Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. 9;

  16. w.pdf

    Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. 1. Preparation: matching Do this exercise before you listen.

  17. unusual_british_festivals_-_exercises_0

    Listen to the presentation about unusual British festivals and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills. 1. Preparation: matching. Do this exercise before you listen. Match the two parts of the phrase to make common festival activities. Write a-f next to the numbers 1-6.

  18. Celebrations

    One of my friends, Sandra, has a big house, and her parents say we can use it. They're going away, luckily. It's at the end of October, so we're going to decorate the house with Halloween things, you know, spiders' webs and spooky things. We're going to make up an excuse to get the birthday girls to come round to the house - say we're going ...

  19. 19 of The Most Unusual Houses in the World

    19 of The Most Unusual Houses in the…: English ESL video lessons. English ESL Video Lessons. Listening Comprehension. Deep listening: Focus on meaning.